Northwest Hospital Sued for Discriminating Against Deaf and Hard of Hearing Patients

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Seattle, WA – July 21, 2016  Northwest Hospital & Medical Center has been called to task for its systemic failure to provide effective communication to patients who are Deaf and hard of hearing.  A class-action lawsuit was filed today in federal court by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and the Good Law Clinic on behalf of Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS) and three individuals alleging that Northwest Hospital, owned and operated by the University of Washington School of Medicine, discriminates against Deaf and hard of hearing people in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

“As a state-run hospital, Northwest Hospital has a duty to communicate effectively with Deaf and hard of hearing patients and their family members,” said DRA Executive Director Laurence Paradis.  “Northwest Hospital is shirking these responsibilities.  It is failing Seattle’s Deaf and hard of hearing community.”  The plaintiffs allege various failures on the part of Northwest Hospital, including failure to provide sign language interpreters, refusal to accommodate simple requests such as responding to bedside pages in person rather than using the intercom, and even outright denial of services.  One plaintiff requested an interpreter when she scheduled an appointment at Northwest Hospital’s Meridian Women’s Health clinic, only to be told when she arrived at her appointment that no interpreter had been booked and the doctor would not see her as a result.

The lawsuit seeks a court order directing Northwest Hospital to develop and implement policies ensuring that qualified sign language interpreters and other necessary accommodations are provided throughout the broad range of medical services offered at this medical facility.  The named plaintiffs are ADWAS, which provides services to the Deaf community, and three Deaf and hard of hearing individuals who were denied access to healthcare at Northwest Hospital due to the lack of effective communication accommodations.

“One out of every two Deaf women is impacted by domestic violence.  When they come to us, survivors need a safe place where they can begin to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally,” said Tiffany Williams, Executive Director of ADWAS.  “If these survivors seek care from a medical provider that does not provide clear communication access, the painful experience of recovering from domestic violence is compounded by discrimination.”  Unfortunately, at Northwest Hospital, the closest emergency room to ADWAS’s office and supportive housing program, they encounter ineffective communication and staff who are untrained on interacting with Deaf and hard of hearing patients.

A copy of the complaint can be found below.

About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)

DRA is one of the leading non-profit disability rights legal centers in the nation.  DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  To advance that mission, DRA regularly advocates for greater access to healthcare services for individuals with disabilities.  For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

About Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS)

ADWAS, celebrating its 30th year of advocacy, is the first agency in the nation to serve Deaf and DeafBlind individuals and children experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault.  ADWAS provides comprehensive services which include Advocacy, Counseling, a 24-hour crisis line, and an Outreach/Education program.  The Supportive Housing program hosts 19 units of low-income housing for women and their children.  ADWAS is located in Seattle, Washington.  For more information please visit www.adwas.org.

About Good Law Clinic

The Good Law Clinic is a civil rights firm committed to the ideal of equality in our society.  These laws demand equal treatment for all persons regardless of membership in protected classes that may include disability, race, color, gender, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We are dedicated to promoting these rights in housing, government services, business, transportation, and employment.  For more information, visit www.goodlawclinic.com.

Contacts

Meredith J. Weaver
Disability Rights Advocates
(510) 665-8644
mweaver@dralegal.org